While inspecting a People’s Liberation Army installation in Chaozhou on Tuesday, Chinese President Xi Jinping told the troops to focus their minds and activities on preparing for war. Xi also pushed them to remain “absolutely loyal, absolutely pure, and absolutely reliable.” Xi’s comments appear to be a message to Taiwan and Washington that the People’s Republic is dissatisfied with the close-ties being forged between the United States and Taiwan. The Chinese leaders remarks came the day after the Trump administration said it will sell Taiwan three advanced weapons systems, ignoring angry demands by the Chinese government to void the sale. The arms package will include the HIMARS rocket artillery system, AGM-84H SLAM-ER precision guided missiles, and sensor pods for Taiwan’s F-16 fighters. This package comes only weeks after a deal was reached to sell Taiwan 66 new-model F-16s.
China’s patience has been wearing thin lately, however, it is difficult to determine how far Beijing is willing to go to keep Taiwan in check. During Taiwan’s National holiday on Saturday, Chinese forces conducted a large-scale island invasion exercise. China’s state-run media covered the exercise, and reported on it extensively. Ironically enough, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen has called for ‘equal dialogue’ with China as peers.
It’s difficult to envision that China would undertake military action against Taiwan, or in another area such as India or the South China Sea with the US presidential election right around the corner. Doing so would be inherently risky from a geopolitical perspective. Having said that, however, China’s timeline and considerations are starkly different from the rest of the world.
A conflict involving China and the United States might not be coming in the near future, but the war clouds are definitely on the horizon. Sooner or later it will come to blows.